Review: Excision (Fantasia 2012)

Last Updated on July 23, 2021

PLOT: Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is a high-school outcast with two things on her mind: losing her virginity to school stud Adam (Jeremy Sumpter), and perfecting her do-it-yourself organ transplantation system in time to operate in her Cystic-Fibrosis affected sister. Ya know, just like your average sixteen year-old.

REVIEW: Somebody, and it certainly wasn’t me, pegged EXCISION perfectly at one of the post-screening Q&A’s by calling it HEATHERS if directed by David Cronenberg. That’s the description that quickly started making the rounds at Sundance, and if EXCISION wasn’t high on my list of festival must-see’s before hearing that, it certainly was after. I also have to give a major shout out to Sundance volunteer Abbie, who INSISTED that I see this film if I dared call myself a writer that’s serious about genre films. How right she was…

I think part of the reason I initially wrote-off EXCISION was due to the presence of AnnaLynne McCord in the lead. This was certainly prejudice on my end, as I was just used to her being the pretty girl from 90210 & NIP/TUCK, and the idea of her downplaying her looks to play a high-school misfit seemed a little ho-hum. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. McCord absolutely nails the difficult role of Pauline, with this being one of those indelible whack-job types of roles that very few actresses have the balls to actually go all-out and make their own. Here, McCord pulls off one of the bravest, most egoless performances I’ve seen in a genre film since Robin McLeavy in THE LOVED ONES.

Certainly, she’s just as scary as McLeavy was in that film, although she brings a certainly level of sympathy to the role that probably only makes it MORE disturbing. In fact, it could be said that Pauline’s intentions throughout are good, even if she is completely out of her mind and needs to be locked up NOW, NOW, NOW!!! Then again, maybe it’s not all her fault, with her conservative, buttoned down Christian mom- played by Traci Lords of all people (excellent in a role that’s more straightforward that you’d think) constantly making her feel inferior to her golden girl, sickly sister. Her idea of helping Pauline is by taking her to the local Reverend to talk about her problems. Oh yeah, and the Reverend is played by John Waters. Probably not the best person for guidance (his entrance into the film brought down the house).

McCord certainly subverted all the prejudices I held against her as I walked into the film, but major credit is also owed to director Richard Bates Jr. Despite the subject matter, Bates never makes EXCISION come off as exploitation. Rather- it feels almost like a piece of pop art, and watching this, which is his first feature-length effort, I couldn’t get over the feeling that it felt like I was seeing a major new voice in genre films emerge throughout.

So, while it’s more than a little sick, and will likely leave you queasy by the time the credits roll, EXCISION is nonetheless a truly unique horror ride into the scariest of all places- the mind of a teenaged misfit. Scary, perverse, and yet somehow relatable, EXCISION is certainly the type of genre flick you’ll have a hard time shaking in the days after you watch it.

Review: Excision (Fantasia 2012)



Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.